Adam is a legal tech IGNITE Trainee Solicitor at Clifford Chance, who was recently recognised as one of the Top 10 Most Innovative Junior Lawyers in the UK by The Legal Technologist Magazine. During his training contract, Adam has worked in the Real Estate, TMT (Technology, Media and Telecoms) and Corporate Financial Institutions teams and has completed a client secondment at Amazon. Adam has also recently joined the Law School’s Professional Mentoring Scheme as a mentor for 2020-21.
Understanding Legal Tech
What is legal technology?
Legal technology or ‘legal tech’ essentially means using technology to provide legal services. It is increasingly becoming a strategic focus at law firms, chambers and in-house legal teams, who are all looking to utilise new and emerging technologies such as chatbots, contract automation and e-discovery platforms to become more efficient and add value to their services to clients. Often this technology is built and designed by or in collaboration with legal tech start-ups.
When did you first become interested in legal tech?
I became interested in legal tech in my final year at Bristol Law School when I had an idea to modernise the traditional legal recruitment ‘milk round’ and help make it more accessible to students from under-represented backgrounds using technology. I built and launched an AI-based chatbot that provided students with free applications advice and connected them to graduate recruitment teams. In its first year, the chatbot was used by over 2000 students across several universities and I had the opportunity to partner with eight international law firms.
Why is legal technology important?
There are four key reasons why I think legal technology is important:
- Being more client-centric – Legal tech provides us with an opportunity to challenge traditional methods of providing legal advice. Instead of sending advice to clients in lengthy Word documents and emails, we can consider whether it is more useful to communicate our advice to clients through tools such as online portals and sites.
- Efficiency and competitive pricing – Law firms are under pressure from clients to reduce their fees. Legal tech can help make our processes as efficient as possible, by reducing the more mundane tasks and automating or outsourcing some of these. This includes integrating tools such as document automation (e.g. CC Dr@ft), machine-learning contract review (e.g. Kira) and e-signing platforms (e.g. DocUSign). Ultimately, this allows us to offer more competitive fee arrangements to clients.
- Diversification and new legal products– A lot of our clients come to us with global, complex issues. By designing and offering new products and solutions, we can have closer relationships with clients, where we are more integrated into their processes and better positioned to support their in-house legal teams with their most pressing legal and commercial challenges.
- Influencing the future of the legal industry– Some of our ideas are best described as ‘blue sky thinking’. Perhaps they aren’t ready for our clients yet but as legal advisers, we want to anticipate our clients’ future needs and be a part of shaping the future of the legal industry.
Training Contract Advice
What would be your advice to students who want to learn more about legal technology?
- Look to other industries for inspiration– My top tip would be to look at businesses in other industries and see how they have used technology to transform and grow. A lot of my inspiration comes from looking at tech strategies that other companies have adopted and considering if these ideas can be applied to legal processes at Clifford Chance. In particular, I would recommend the Stratechery blog or Harvard Business Review’s Exponential View podcast, which are accessible ways of learning about the strategy and business side of technology.
- Keep an eye out for developments in the legal tech market – I wouldn’t worry too much about conducting detailed research on the legal tech market (unless you are super interested!). However, it is useful to understand what technology is out there and any general trends in the market. I would recommend blog posts by Clifford Chance Applied Solutions, The Legal Technologistand The Artificial Lawyer.
- Legal tech events and internships – Some legal tech start-ups offer short internships over the summer. There are also lots of events to meet like-minded students and individuals working in legal tech. The largest legal tech event in the UK, Legal Geek, is coming up in October 2020 and is free to sign up. I’ll be attending! The Law School has also partnered with international law firm, Osborne Clarke to create a LegalTech placement for current students. This opportunity partners law students with a computer science students to tackle real-life projects, using emerging technologies. Find out more about the scheme here.
What skills should students interested in legal tech look to develop?
- Coding is not required– A lot of students ask me if they need to be able to code to get involved in legal tech. Coding is not always required. I rarely code as part of my legal tech training contract (only as a hobby). What I think is more important is understanding the different tools that are out there so that you can make suggestions such as “perhaps we can provide that using an app or an API”. There are quite a few online courses and short YouTube videos that can help get you up to speed on the latest tech that businesses are adopting.
- Learn how digital products are developed– Entrepreneurship is the process of turning ideas into actual products or services and when it occurs in large organisations this is often referred to as intrapreneurship. Being able to understand this process of how to turn an idea into reality (from idea, to prototype, to launch and beyond!) is super important. A great starting point is the book “The Lean Startup” which has a lot of principles you can apply as a legal tech lawyer.
How can I talk about legal tech in a training contract interview?
- Remember it is a legal training contract interview first and foremost– Don’t forget that legal tech is an important topic that is likely to come up in your interview but it is unlikely to be the main or sole topic for discussion. It is important that you understand the firm you are applying to, can talk about your skills and experiences and also demonstrate your interest in law and commercial awareness.
- Show you understand the implications of legal technology– Technology provides a lot of opportunities for law firms and their clients. However, it also has a lot of challenges and you must be able to show that you understand the implications of legal tech when discussing your ideas. A key concern is often cybersecurity!
- If you discuss a legal tech idea, appreciate that your initial idea may not be perfect– Often our ideas are not perfect the first time around. Your interviewer may have more experience and provide a new perspective that you had not considered. Designing legal technology is a process. It involves learning, testing and validating your ideas step by step. Be prepared to ‘pivot’ or redesign your ideas as the interview progresses.
For more information on exploring specific career options, current law students can access tailored careers advice through our regular Employability Bulletin and a wealth of resources on our Blackboard page here. See our full Careers and Employability webpages here.